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What is Optional Practical Training?

From Yale University
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. You may use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during your course of study or save the full twelve months to use after you complete your studies . Authorization for optional practical training is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) – formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service or INS – and can take at least 90 days and frequently up to 120 days to obtain. It is important that you apply for the authorization at the earliest possible date.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for F-1 Optional Practical Training?
To be eligible to apply for optional practical training, you must:
have been in full time student status for at least one full academic year preceding the submission of your OPT application
be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application, and
intend to work in a position directly related to your major field of study.
When should I apply?
If you are a student completing the first academic year of study (or are in a one year program), the earliest you can submit the application is 90 days prior to the date you complete your first academic year.
If you are beyond the first year of study, we recommend you submit your application no earlier than 120 days prior to the start date you request for your OPT.
If you are applying for OPT based on completion of all coursework and/or completion of your academic program, you must submit an application for optional practical training prior to your completion date. Applications received at USCIS after the completion date will be denied.
Applications will be accepted by OISS at your pre-scheduled OPT appointment.
Dates of OPT Authorization. The OPT card is approved for a specific beginning and end date. You must identify those dates on the OPT Request Form. For OPT after completion of studies or graduation, the beginning date can be no later than 60 days after the date you complete your studies. If you have questions about your OPT dates, please discuss this with an OISS adviser.
How do I apply for OPT?
OPT must be recommended by the OISS before submitting the application to USCIS. Your first step is to schedule an appointment with our office. To schedule, email sarah.henderson@yale.edu or stop by the office to sign up. Time slots will be available Tuesday through Friday, from February 1st – March 31st . Appointments will be scheduled in small group format, with time for individual questions. The session will last no longer than one hour. Your OPT applications will be reviewed for completeness and accepted for processing at the close of the session.

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